Recently, I applied for an interactive writer position at Jellyvision, the company best known for the computer trivia game You Don’t Know Jack.  Part of the application process was to write a humorous essay about how electricity works.  You were to “be funny and informative, and write like you’re writing to a bright seventh-grader.” 

I’ve since gotten a rejection e-mail.  No big deal, I get rejected all the time.  But I don’t think what I wrote was too bad – though I suppose it could be wittier.  I’d like to see an essay that made the cut.

Here’s what I submitted:


You probably think of electricity as the magical stuff in your walls that makes all the cool things in your house work, like Call of Duty on the PS3.  Well, it IS sort of magical – in the sense that it’s energy produced by the movement of negatively-charged particles in an atom, called electrons.

These electrons move rapidly in what’s called a current, which runs along a circuit, which usually consists of wires.  These electrons run through the current and circuit like a hyperactive dog after a caffeinated rabbit.  The source of these enthusiastic electrons comes from a power plant generated by nuclear fission, water, wind, oil, or coal.

The cool electricity in your house is called alternating current, or AC, and it flows rapidly back and forth.  The electricity generated from batteries – like in your laptop or the old Game Boy lost somewhere under your bed – is direct current, or DC, which only runs one way.

There’s also static electricity, in which electrons emit a charge in nature but do not flow through a current.  Lightning is a perfect example, as is the charge that occurs when you shuffle your feet across the carpet, touch your roommate, and shock the hell out of him.

Current (AC or DC) electricity can only flow through a continuous circuit, or connected series of conductors.  When you flip a light or any “off” switch, it breaks the circuit, and the electricity is cut off.  Conductors are substances through which electricity can easily flow, like salt, water, wool, and metal.  So if you don’t want to be an electrical conductor, it’s best not to stand in salt water wearing wool underpants and a lot of bling.

So: the electricity in your house is courtesy of stimulated electrons generated by a power plant, and travels through conductors (metal wires) in a continuous circuit (until you switch it off).  It then provides power to make your toast, heat your cold soup in a microwave, and allow you to post rude comments on YouTube.

Now that you know all about how electricity works, go enjoy Call of Duty.  Just remember to thank your invisible friends: electrons.